Keeping in Touch—27 May 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Veterans For Peace,
There is a lot to report on since last month’s Keeping in Touch memo, most notably the VFP presence in Chicago to protest the NATO summit.
Though the summit itself did not begin until the 20th, I arrived on the 11th in order to participate in the People’s Summit—a 2-day conference of plenaries and workshops organized by the Coalition Against NATO and the G8 (CANG8). The People’s Summit was very well attended and included such notable speakers as Kathy Kelly, Mumia Abu Jamal, and VFP member Ann Wright. Ann and VFP Board member Gerry Condon also participated in a workshop that I moderated entitled “How can U.S. activists support the international struggle against U.S./NATO bases?”
The next week was filled with non-stop press conferences, demonstrations, interviews, non-violence training, a “counter” summit, presentations, and preparation for the big march on Sunday. On Saturday, VFP held a press conference at which our Executive Director Mike Reid and VFP members Ann Wright and Jay Wenk spoke in advance of our attempted delivery of a letter to the NATO military leadership asking them to meet with us. We were unable to get anyone to accept the letter, so we tucked it into a folded flag and slipped it under the fencing.
On Sunday I was one of the speakers at the rally, which preceded the march of over 15,000, and was thrilled to meet civil rights icon Reverend Jesse Jackson. The march was led by members of IVAW followed by VFP and VVAW who provided the security necessary for IVAW to conduct their medal-returning ceremony. Two VFP members, Scott Olsen, and Board member Matt Southworth, were part of the group who threw their service medals in what was a very moving and powerful event.
I was very proud to see so many of our members wearing their t-shirts, hats and carrying our flags. I think we had about 70 there from all over the country. There was so much international press there; it was an unprecedented opportunity for VFP to speak out against war and militarism.
You may have seen video coverage of the overwhelming police presence, and it was very unnerving to see them absolutely everywhere—plus of course, there were many more who were not in uniform and not obvious. During the first part of my stay in Chicago, the police were all wearing street uniforms and would show up on bicycles at the unpermitted demonstrations. They were relatively friendly and non-confrontational. As the week wore on, and more and more protesters arrived, the police presence was more obvious, and their attire and demeanor became more provocative.
On Saturday, I participated in unpermitted street marches with 4 other VFP members, and I was alarmed by the confrontational posturing of the police who were all wearing, at a minimum, helmets with full face shields in the down position, and who had their batons out and at the ready. The only act of “violence” on the part of the demonstrators that I witnessed was on Sunday night when a young man threw some empty and half-empty plastic water bottles at the police who were clad in full riot gear. On Saturday and especially Sunday, many protesters were beaten with batons and then arrested.
Personally, I felt that it was very important to be in the streets, and to be a part of the physical presence opposing NATO—not just on Sunday during the permitted march, but particularly during the un-permitted demonstrations. I believe it is very important to show our government that we will not be intimidated by the strong presence of police, and that we will not be silenced for fear of being beaten by a baton.
In other news…I spent Friday and Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend in Grant’s Pass, Oregon visiting with the folks in Chapter 156 and Chapter 141 and marching in a parade. I was proud to hold up one end of the Bradley Manning banner, and was very impressed with the great turnout and positive reaction to the VFP entry. I also wrote an HYPERLINK “http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/memorial-day-pick-your-perversion” op-ed piece about Memorial Day which was published on Michael Moore’s website as well as ours.
Our second electronic town hall webinar will be held Wednesday, May 30th at 4:00 pm PDT, 5: 00 pm MDT, 6:00 pm CDT and 7:00 pm EDT. If you would like to participate, please HYPERLINK “http://web.yugma.com/myyugma/session-management/enroll.php?meetid=Jf6K1pUS9SaupBYPWwhPfg==” register here. We are trying a different service provider, so we will be anxious to know if you find this one better than the last one. I hope many of you will be able to participate, and I look forward to hearing your comments, questions and concerns.
In peace and solidarity,